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CFO Gallagher Announces Arrests of 13 Individuals in Patient Brokering, PIP Fraud Scheme

3/11/2005

CONTACT:
Nina Banister
(850) 413-2842
TAMPA—Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher today announced the arrests of 13 individuals linked to seven medical facilities on felony charges culminating from a two-year investigation into patient brokering.  The patients were sold to various medical clinics for up to $1,000 each for the purpose of billing insurance companies for tens of thousands of dollars.
 
"These patients were auctioned off like art, and Florida's consumers get the bill," said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services and Division of Insurance Fraud, which led the investigations.  "The costs are very real – hundreds of dollars in additional costs each year on the backs of Florida's families." 
 
Auto insurance fraud is estimated to cost the average Florida family as much as $240 a year in higher premiums and costs for goods and services. 
 
 The investigation was a joint endeavor among the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, and the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office.
 
The arrests began in December and continued today.
 
Most of the patients were solicited after they were involved in auto accidents, some of which were staged.  The patients were then sold for as much as $800 or more to medical clinics that would bill auto insurance companies, under the patients' Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, up to $10,000 for treatment.  The patients were then sold again for up $200 to diagnostics facilities for X-rays or MRIs adding up to thousands more in insurance company claims. 
 
In the last five years, the department's Division of Insurance Fraud has arrested more than 800 people in connection with at least $23 million in Personal Injury Protection insurance fraud.  Florida drivers are required to carry a minimum of $10,000 in PIP coverage as well as $10,000 in property damage liability coverage. 
 
Patient brokering and solicitation are third-degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison per count.  Organizing or participating in a staged accident, also a third-degree felony, is punishable by a minimum mandatory two-year prison sentence, up to five years. 
The minimum mandatory sentence for staging an auto accident has been in Florida law since October 1, 2003, and numerous perpetrators are serving or facing the sentence.  They also are losing their driver licenses.
 
Gallagher this year is promoting legislation to address the latest spin on PIP fraud – accidents that never happen.  The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Dean Cannon and Sen. J.D. Alexander, would extend the two-year mandatory sentence to anyone convicted of filing a fraudulent accident report.
 
Floridians solicited to participate in a PIP fraud scheme can choose to join the scheme and hope to get a couple of hundred dollars, or they can share their information with the department and possibly receive a reward of up to $25,000 if the information directly leads to an arrest and conviction.  Names can be held anonymous.  The Fraud Buster Hotline is 1-800-378-0445.
 
"PIP fraud participants can't see past what they think is easy money," Gallagher said.  "We want Floridians to understand that the risks aren't worth the money – if convicted, you may very well spend at least two years in prison and lose your license."
 
The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance. 

A list of the individuals arrested so far follows.

ARRESTS IN TAMPA PATIENT BROKERING SCHEME
The following people were arrested as part of the conclusion of the joint investigation:
 
Victor H. Chery, 01/11/56, 3304 Pico Dr. Tampa, Fl. Owner of Advantage Medical Diagnostic, Inc. 1420 W. Waters Av. Tampa, Fl. (business now closed). Charged with patient brokering, 1 count, $2000.00 bond
 
Jeffrey S. Poritz, D.C. 7/17/49, 4422 Casey Rd. Tampa, Florida 33618, owner of Complete Care Clinic, 4039 W. Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa, Fl.  Carged with patient brokering, 1 count, $2000.00 bond
 
Lazaro Gari, 10/9/62, 4713 Pebblepoint Place Tampa, Fl. 33634, Administrator, United Gables Rehab. 2123 W. M. L. King Blvd. Suite 201 Tampa, Florida.  Charged with patient brokering, 1 count, $2000.00 bond
 
Alvarez, Juan Carlos, 12/15/63, 6002 Whippoorwill Dr. Tampa, Florida 33525, Owner, West Tampa Rehab.1943 W. M. L. King Blvd. Tampa, Florida. Charged with patient brokering, 1 count, $2000.00 bond
 
Robert Glaser, DOB 01/12/58, 607 W. Martin Luther King #103, charged on 1 count patient brokering, $2000.00 bond
 
Melissa Rodriguez, D/O/B: 05/15/72, 7704 Palmbrook Dr., Tampa, Fl. Charged with 1 count of patient brokering
 
Steven Prevatt- DOB: 05-0160, 311 West Davis Blvd.  Tampa, Fl.  Charged with 1 count of patient brokering
 
Hildys Lisa Ramos- DOB: 10/13/75, 9506 Pembroke Count, Tampa, Fl.  Charged with 1 count of patient brokering brokering
 
Henry Woolley- DOB: 05/23/80, 3828 N. Lakeshore Dr. Apt A, Tampa Fl. Charged with 1 count of patient brokering
 
Marie Degramond-DOB: 09/05/72, 2701 N. 18th St. Apt #1, Tampa, Fl.  Charged with 1 count of patient brokering
 
Jose Ballester, DOB: 11/23/57, 1252 E. 113th St. Apt. 114 Tampa, FL.  Charged with 1 count of patient brokering and 1 count of filing a false insurance claim